Lehigh Valley Phantoms Top 14 Prospects: #5-#1

Isaac Ratcliffe, Philadelphia Flyers (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Isaac Ratcliffe, Philadelphia Flyers (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms have so much talent on this year’s roster. Even though the Phantoms are playing only three teams this season, all three are familiar territory. The big question going into this season is how will everyone get playing time.

From the rookies to the veterans one question that still remains to be unseen is how will everyone fit in and these remaining prospects should not have any problem finding their way onto the ice come February 6th.

Isaac Ratcliffe, whose been absent for the first week of Phantoms training camp, was seen skating with the Flyers Taxi Squad before their weekend tilt against the New York Islanders which is a good sign. It’s still in question if he’ll be ready for Tuesday’s pre-season game or in Hershey when Lehigh Valley gets to the games that will count but the future Flyers second or third liner will be exciting to watch this season and will be thrown tasks and will have to rise to the occasion to get them done.

It’s my honor to present my top five prospects in my opinion of the 2021 Phantoms season.

Number 5: Wyatte Wylie

How Acquired: 2018 round 5 #127

Expect Wyatte Wylie to patrol the blue line in the 2020-21 campaign for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. If their respective innovations continue to advance as planned, he and Zamula both offer Flyers sufficient options on the powerplay. Wylie is a guy to be conscious of in the coming seasons. For the next step, he would do well to fine-tune his condition.

My prediction for the season is that Wyatte Wyile will be paired either with Tyler Wotherspoon or Mason Millman to start the season. This is a defender that Chuck Fletcher and Phantoms GM Brett Flahr have been high on for a very long time. An offensive defenseman that was an assist machine in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips. 121 assists in 272 games played along with 31 goals for a total of 152 points for one heck of a career in the WHL.

Wyile being 21 is an older prospect on the backend for the Phantoms but the way he can read the play and analyze where he’s going to pass the puck at all times makes him very dangerous to play against. I have no doubt in my mind that he will be quaterbacking the power-play for the team this year. He will receive big minutes and will be someone to generate offense up the ice.  He’s such a solid top-four defenseman.

Number 4: Yegor Zamula

How Acquired: Signed/$756,667

Ah, yes. One of the Flyers future top 4 defenseman tops off at number four on my prospect list. 102 points in 158 games in the WHL with the Regina Pats and Calgary Hitmen, Zamula just brings a game-changer to this Phantoms power-play that absolutely struggled last season. With the addition of Wyile and Zamula for the man advantage I at least expect maybe the Phantoms power-play to be 43% this season. What an absolute weapon to have.

He has been well worth the investment so far, although he will likely be a season or two away from getting regular playing time at the NHL level. While his decision making at the WHL level was very good, the story here which I think is fantastic is the only advantage to juniors not starting in Canada is will will see and get a taste if all these guys are ready for the professional level.

The hope is that he will be able to handle these overlapping roles better in time. Until then, his key area of development is his ability in his own zone to tackle quicker rivals. Most of the time, as good as his instincts are to be in the right position, his skating must change in order to properly handle NHL defensive assignments. Nevertheless, as long as he holds the course, he has the makings of a top-four defenseman.

Number 3: Felix Sandström

How Acquired: 2015 round 3 #70 overall

Sandstrom is coming into his second professional season along with his first full year in the AHL. It’s time to show everyone what the 24 year old is made of. If Sandström has a massive year, Elliot better call his agent because the new one, two punch will be Carter Hart and Felix Sandström going into the 2021-22 hockey season.

Last year he spent most of the season with the Reading Royals along side Kirill Ustimenko, splitting ice time before the Flyers traded away goaltender J-F Bérubé. In 25 games Sandström went 13-11-1 with a .855 SV% finishing off with a 3.27 GAA. Felix is a highly skilled goaltender with impressive fundamentals.

While is record wasn’t the greatest with Reading last season it’s important to note the growth he presented. While still working on being 100% healthy, he looked to continue to make some noise. He has an advantage and could have a successful in-house solution if one of the Flyers goaltenders go down either this year and in the future.

Sandström has an unpolished and fascinating skill set. His game is on the rise, but he profits from the team in front of him in the meantime because of the lower scoring opportunities that his team gives up. While he definitely has NHL starter upside potential this makes more sense for him to report for AHL. He needs to prove he’ll be able to manage more of a workload.

Number 2: Zayde Wisdom

How Acquired: 2020 round 4 #94

The highly anticipated professional debut of 19 year old center Zayde Wisdom can’t come soon enough.

A winger of meat and potatoes who has demonstrated the potential to play with highly talented players. He’s not going to drive a line, but he may be a multi-cat potential star chipping all over the stat sheet.

While having two more years of eligibility in the OHL, the Flyers although not having a choice, are making the right move on playing this young center. Wisdom, I expect to be paired with a veteran like Cal O’Rielly for the first pre-season game on Friday against Hershey due to the fact that Wisdom and O’Rielly were paired for training camp. Lots of combinations you can play with Wisdom especially for a pre-season game but I expect him to start with Wade Allison or David Kase.

While he was expected to report to Kingston Frontenacs, COVID-19 had another plans. Chuck Fletcher and Brett Flahr get a look at the 2020 draft pick and see how he’ll play with talent at the AHL level that’s 11,18,19 years old than he is. I expect all eyes on the Toronto, Canada native and he certainly can give Scott Gordon offense and could be found as a gem.

Number 1: Issac Ratcliffe 

How Acquired: 2017 round 2 #35

We’ve finally reached number one on my prospect list for the 2021 season. If Issac Ratcliffe stays healthy and comes back from his rib injury just completely fine and has a stellar season or even first half welcome to the show, #19 Issac Ratcliffe! The 21 year old, London, ON, Canada native has all the tools in his basket to be an absolute stud this season.

From the PK, PP to unique situations that are presented on the ice during the game, Ratcliffe will be asked to handle it all. With such great hands he definitely uses his size to his advantage. Ratcliffe has such a mean streak and loves to throw his weight around, setting the games physical tone and that’s what the Philadelphia Flyers need.

In his first professional season, Ratcliffe missed about six weeks due to a leg injury which kept him out of the Flyers scouting eyes. 15 points total for his rookie campaign. It was frustrating to see him not participate in Flyers Camp before the NHL season started this year again due to injury. The belief is he could be ready to go for the Phantoms pre-season games coming up  and into that February 6th start date.

If Ratcliffe wasn’t injured at all last season we potentially could’ve seen a Farabee-Frost-Ratcliffe line for AV last season. Plans changed but it’s important to note he’s only 21. The most special skill set Ratcliffe has is his excellent movements for one on one situations as he can defeat defenders for both the ability to cover and that get in his face.

The Issac Ratcliffe we saw this past campaign is the one that loyal Flyers fans have to look forward to. He remains to be decided, although down the stretch he proved to be much better last season with the Phantoms. Once he got used to the grind that comes with professional hockey, with the offense going, especially with his shot generation, he ended up being a real blasting cap. Ratcliffe is just such a big power forward that will have added value in the future for the Flyers Top 9.